Summer is Coming (Soon)

Once the weather starts to warm up, time seems to exponentially disappear on me. The warmer months of the year are the busier months of the year, for everyone I supp0se. But, somewhere in amongst camp days, school days, soccer and t-ball games, treks to the pool, weekend road-trips and the seemingly unending picnics in the park, I do find time to cook.

I adore warm-weather cooking for its simple arithmetic: (meat + veggies) x grill = fabulous dinner. I find the scents of grilling and all warm-weather cooking irresistible: all those fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables make me lightheaded (in a good way). The flavours are diverse and splendid…and tempt my palate well into the cool crisp months that follow (we Canadians bar-b-que all winter long, it’s a part of our genetic makeup.)

Continue reading “Summer is Coming (Soon)”

My Coffee Addiction (and a contest!)

My name is Jennifer and I am addicted to coffee…

For me coffee has always represented a rare species of mysterious devotion. When I was young I was not allowed to drink this bitter, warm beverage that the adults in my life sipped after dinner or with breakfast as though it were the nectar of the Gods. I recall at quite a young age, my grandfather making me toast sticks (toast with peanut butter, cut into narrow sticks that somehow tasted so much better than regular-shaped toast with peanut butter) at the breakfast table in his kitchen; him sipping coffee and me sitting right up close to him, sniffing his coffee and wanting, more than anything, to be granted just one taste. Continue reading “My Coffee Addiction (and a contest!)”

A FroYo of Biblical Proportions

I walked through the door and was immediately struck by the scent of fresh waffle cones. Never a bad way to start an afternoon, I figured. This, only my second visit to Menchie’s, was definitely going to be interesting, as I was there for something called a “Blogurtfest”. It had been hashtagged all over Twitter in recent days, and I had been invited. I couldn’t say no – I mean who ever says no to frozen yogurt experimentation…? For Serious. So I went in. I smelled the waffles, I saw the toppings, I checked out the flavours. With my senses properly piqued I continued on and found the small-ish group I had been expecting on Saturday afternoon for the first official Blogurtfest.

Continue reading “A FroYo of Biblical Proportions”


Sun-kissed and sweet, straight from the celebrity capital of the world, California Strawberries are the official strawberry of the Toronto International Film Festival, 2010.

This "celebrity berry" will be on the red carpet at the festival, and now you can be there (or at least kind of close to it), too!

If you love film, you’ll love the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Toronto International Film Festival has become the launching pad for the best of international, Hollywood and Canadian cinema, and is recognized as the most important film festival after Cannes.

And now you (yes, you!) could win two non-gala Screening tickets to the festival.

Please send me an email telling me about your favourite strawberry dessert recipe. Entries will be accepted as of now (August 27) until next Friday, September 3 at 5pm (Eastern Standard time). One winner will be chosen randomly.

Some of my personal favourite strawberry recipes are:
Fresh Strawberry Cake, Strawberry Clafouti, Strawberry Cornmeal Bread and (to die for!) a White Balsamic Custard and Strawberry Tart.

These non-gala tickets do not include a red carpet and the recipient must be 18 years or older. Obviously it would be best if you live in Toronto, but if you are willing to travel here to see a movie then by all means, enter the contest!

Relax and Enjoy

The winners of the Relax and Enjoy contest (chosen randomly from over 400 entrants) are Victoria Hyde (who declared her love of Carmel is due to it’s various forms and textures) and Masa Soliman (who claimed that caramel is "gooey and delicious and tastes good in everything — chocolate, ice cream, creme caramel, cookies, YOU NAME IT).

Thank you to everyone who entered. My email inbox is very tired and grateful that this contest is now closed.

There are few sweet combinations that I like more than caramel and chocolate. Actually, to be completely honest, chocolate does go with just about anything. But caramel, with it’s slow, subtle flavour and it’s deliberate texture, it is probably the ideal companion. The chocolate stains your fingers and the caramel lingers right alongside for serious licking enjoyment, long after the actual confection is gone. Dessert doesn’t get much better than that.

Caramel is one of those concoctions that make you slow down and take your time. Chocolate is dreamy and delicious and studies show that it actually does make you happier and more content. And now, thanks to Milky Way we can have our chocolate and our caramel too – with their new "Simply Caramel" bars.

And, thanks to the good people of the Milky Way brand, I have an amazing prize pack for two lucky winners. The "Simply Caramel Relax and Enjoy" gift packs each contain the a $75 gift certificate to (for a yoga class or a massage) and enough Simply Caramel Bars to indulge in for a month (that’s five, according to the chocolate bar professionals). I know my ideal prize is getting a massage WHILE eating all five of the chocolate bars in one afternoon though, and you are welcome to do that if you wish (just don’t tell anyone!).

So, if you’d like to win one of these prize packs, all you have to do is email me with why you love caramel. All entries must be received by 12 noon on Friday August 20th. The winner (randomly selected) will be announced here before 4pm that same day.

Dinner Disasters (CONTEST)

I want to hear your dinner disaster stories! Please send them to me (ASAP!!) and I will chose the four that make me laugh the most (yes, I’m mean that way) and post them on my site or link to them if they are online. Those four winners will each receive a $20 gift certificate from Longo’s to help out with their next dinner disaster**.

In the meantime, can you please explain to me why many moms feel as though they need to berate themselves on a regular basis because they are not short-order, haute cuisine chefs…? I’ve heard all the reasons a million times, and even muttered a few of them to myself under my breath while grocery shopping at 10pm on a weeknight. You know what I’m talking about – the sorrowful lament of "my mother cooked all of our meals from scratch when we were kids", and the sad refrain "my kids deserve the best", or even the melancholy chords of "I won’t pull out a frozen lasagna for dinner again this week".

Why is it that every day mothers have no problem forcing themselves to do tasks they don’t have the time, don’t have the inclination, or don’t have the resources to complete…? Dinner is one of those responsibilities around my house that seems to always fall to the mom. (Of course, these days I am the only one tall enough to reach the freezer or turn on the stove.) Moms everywhere (at-home, work-from-home, mom-preneurs, work-outside-the-home, retired) are made to feel as though they are utterly useless unless they are capable of preparing and serving a fresh, hot, not-from-frozen, not-from-takeaway, gourmet meal to their loved ones.

Dinner with children can rapidly go from being an easy-going affair to something akin to Fatal Attraction, especially on a weeknight. I personally have too many dinner disasters to count, but I try not to let them get me down. Obviously we still need to eat and macaroni and cheese is rarely on the menu (unless made from scratch, then I can’t wait to dig in). But there is the odd night when I haven’t had time to prepare for, time to shop for or time to think about dinner.

Evenings like these can easily turn into a complete disaster – particularly with a small, tired, ravenous boy (are boys always hungry?!?) in the mix who just wants to eat, maybe read a book and go to bed. And I will admit that once in a while I turn to someone else for help. Recently I found a good, inexpensive, tasty "helper" for just these occasions. Longo’s sent me a few of their Fresh Meals Made Easy packs to test out at home.

Usually when I buy something pre-packaged, I find it lacking. With these I was pleasantly surprised. For the price ($9.99) and the convenience (dinner from fridge to table in less than 10 minutes…really, less than 10 minutes!) I don’t think you can get a better meal. And the quantity was quite good. Enough to feed myself, my son and left just enough for my lunch the next day. Fresh ingredients, no preservatives, lots of veggies; these packages are right up my alley. And with so much variety (Ginger-Lime Beef Stir-Fry, Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Chicken Linguine (Leith’s favourite), and Chili Garlic Shrimp Stir-Fry to name a few), how can you go wrong?

I did however have one small complaint: the instructions tell you to add the vegetables to the pan and saute for two minute and then to add the noodles. The veggies and the noodles are packaged together, sometimes all mixed in with each other. I’m a stickler for proper instructions, so I think they need to either tell you just to add it all in together or find a way to keep the vegetables and the noodles separate. I spent more time picking carrots out of noodles than I did cooking the entire meal. A small thing, but kind of irritating to someone as nit-picky as I am.

**Longo’s has locations in Ontario only – specifically across the GTA in areas like Downtown Toronto, Aurora and Brampton. Anyone can participate, but those living in/around the GTA would be best able to redeem the gift certificates.

My Tender-est Twosome

When Lenn and I finally decided to do a combined Wine Blogging WednesdaySugar High Friday event, I couldn’t resist the lure of chocolate for my entry. I knew that even if I had to sip a dozen different kinds of wine I would eventually come across one that went with chocolate. And even if I had to swelter through baking baker’s dozen chocolate cakes, I would make one that went well with the wine.

Continue reading “My Tender-est Twosome”


When I was growing up, comfort food was something I learned about very early on. I don’t subscribe to the motto that ice cream will cure all of your woes or that a chocolate bar will help you cope, it is more that I think you should eat what your body is craving. I’m not prescribing that you eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but if you’re craving a hunk of dark chocolate, you should probably indulge. It’s most likely not going to kill you.

I learned to listen to what my body was craving when I was pregnant with Leith and then again when I was hospitalized a few years ago. I won’t get into all the medical mumbo-jumbo but will admit that I ate a lot of food high in iron (a good steak is my best friend) on a regular basis. It wasn’t that I ate poorly before then; it was more that I became more aware of what my body desired and have continued to eat in that fashion since.

Sometimes what your body needs is compassion. For some this comes in the form of a cup of tea or a bowl of soup. For others it might mean eating toast or left-overs. Pasta is definitely one of the greatest comfort foods for me. Effortless to prepare, and with so many different ways to serve, it is also my stand-by side dish. But your average tomato sauce or everyday white sauce sometimes just doesn’t cut it when you whip pasta out for dinner. Besides, why should you stick to old standards when you can create new and interesting ones instead?

This little beauty of a dish can be an appetizer, main dish, side dish or, even a snack. The cheese in it is a rich-tasting, full-bodied experience and it holds its own next to the sausage and the roasted peppers. The spice is just right, enough to make your toes curl but not enough to make your tongue burn. The recipe is extremely simple to prepare (and could be done well in advance) and the only real "work" is roasting of the peppers in the beginning, which can be done well in advance if you like.

That is what I love about pasta – it is so versatile and so simple. You can eat it every day of the week and have marvelously diverse dishes to eat each time that are healthy, hearty and utterly scrumptious.

If you want some more truly delectable Macaroni and Cheese recipes, be sure to visit the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board’s 30 Days, 30 Ways blog.

Your Tender-est Twosome (WBW # 66 & SHF # 63)

February is the month for perfect dinners – and even more perfect desserts. Everyone wants to make that quintessential meal for their loved one(s); and not only on Valentine’s Day. Here, in the ice-covered northern hemisphere, we are starting to feel the dog days of winter upon us and beginning to wonder if spring will ever arrive. I think it’s time to step it up a notch and make dessert a serious priority.

Most meals end with dessert and coffee or a glass of liqueur. The focus on the meal is long since gone, as is the wine. Guests are getting sleepy, hosts are getting antsy about the clean-up ahead of them and no one is paying attention to what they’re eating or drinking anymore. I think this is shameful. Every once in a while, dessert deserves the attention given to a main course; and a wine to match. That chocolate torte needs a nice glass of Bordeaux. That lemon tart is calling out for a few sips of Vidal. Your signature coffee cake demands a swig (or two) of a good ice wine.

The proper pairing of a sugary confection with a good wine is a difficult thing to maneuver. I have seen it done a few times in restaurants, once or twice at dinner parties and maybe done it once myself – and I almost certainly managed it by accident. Do you go sweeter with the wine than the dessert or match it? Do you go red or white or ice? Do you try to harmonize regions or go completely off the map (so to speak) with your choice…?

You have the chance to decide all this and more for yourself this month with the first ever joint SHF-WBW Dessert-Wine Pairing Event! All bloggers (food, wine or otherwise) are welcome to participate. Post your entry on Wednesday, February 24, complete with tasting notes, comments and a picture of the wine and dessert. Email me with a link to your entry, your name, your blog name and a 100 x 100 jpg titled with the name of your blog. I will post a roundup in the following days.

I am looking forward to seeing what sort of Tender Twosomes you come up with.

If you are interested in hosting SHF in 2010 please get in touch with me as soon as possible. I have slots available but they are filling up fast!

Fry Girl

Everyone has a favourite kitchen item, don’t they? For some people it’s a well-worn wooden spoon, others can’t live without a properly sharpened and balanced Santoku knife. I know my mother would not feel at home in her own kitchen if there was no rolling pin and my older sister probably couldn’t live without her dutch oven. Me…? Well, I love my Kitchen Aid mixer, I am quite fond of my cook-anything-in-it toaster oven, and I always smile when I pull out my immersion blender. But my all-time, go-to, favourite item is a good-quality, not-overly-large frying pan.

I have used a few different pans over the years, with varying results. But recently I believe met the pan that I will last me the rest of my life. I have cooked pasta sauce in it, chicken (it goes stove-top to oven easily), fish and even some really delicious lemon-thyme scallops. It helped me out with a stir-fry, some corn cakes and even pancakes one Sunday morning. Then one day I started thinking about how delicious a grilled cheese sandwich would be made in this pan. I daydreamed all week (please don’t tell my boss!) about the melted cheese, the warm fillings and that perfectly caramelized crust it would give the olive-oil’ed and buttered bread.

When the eagerly anticipated day finally arrived, I stopped at the market on my way home from work for a few essentials – skim milk mozzarella, some thinly shaved turkey breast from the organic butcher, a good, ripe tomato, a loaf of crusty white bread – and then made my way home, my thoughts centered on what I was about to create. I breezily told everyone we were having sandwiches for dinner, watched their faces go from expectant to bored in less than two seconds flat and left them for the kitchen. Less than thirty minutes later I was surprising them with glorious sandwiches, full of flavours and textures.

If you want your own perfect pan, why not try bidding on once of the four Mark McEwan by Fresco pans that the amazing folks at Fresco have graciously donated for Menu for Hope this year? The codes to bid on these beautiful pans are: CA07, CA08, CA09 and CA10 (and, sorry, shipping is limited to within Canada).

For further information on Menu for Hope, and to see the other prizes available this year, see Seven Spoons (Tara is the Canadian host) or Chez Pim (Pim is the overall coordinator and originator of Menu for Hope).

To Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle
1. Choose a bid item or items of your choice from the Menu for Hope main bid item list.

2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make a donation.

3. Specify which bid item you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write in how many tickets per bid item, and use the bid item code. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for CA01 and 3 tickets for CA07 – 2xCA01, 3xCA07.

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so MFH can claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow MFH to see your email address so that they can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Monday, January 18 for the results of the raffle.

Good Luck!!